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Hermosa residents watch, prepare for 416 Fire

Fire crews build defensible space around evacuated homes
Firefighters Isaac Duran, left, and Ryan McNertney perform fire mitigation Monday on Steve Beiser’s property, who is a resident on County Road 201 near Hermosa.

HERMOSA – As the 416 Fire moves into the Hermosa Creek Drainage, residents have grown concerned that they may be in danger and are taking it upon themselves to help protect their homes.

Since the fire broke out Friday, Connie Beiser and her husband, Steve, have done fire mitigation around their home on County Road 201. The couple have been cutting down trees around their house to create a buffer zone should the fire come down toward the home.

“We have cut down trees, and we have been watering our property in different areas for two hours, and then moving the sprinklers to another section,” Connie Beiser said. “We’ve been doing that for four days.”

Beiser, who received a pre-evacuation notice Sunday, is concerned the fire will come down into the Jones Creek area, which would put her house at risk.

“On a scale of one to 10, we are probably at a nine,” she said about her level of concern. “From different conversations we’ve had with forest people, that is the fear, that it’ll come down the Jones Creek area. Whether it’ll stay on our side of the road or whether it’ll hop across and go down into that creek – if it comes down into that creek, they (firefighters) are afraid that it’ll come back up toward us.”

Beiser has seen firefighting crews doing mitigation work on Forest Service land. They’ve also been doing work around her home and her neighbors’ homes to protect them. The crews have been extremely helpful and offered tips about which trees to cut and other tasks they can perform to protect their homes.

“The most impressive thing about all the crews is that they stop by, they chat with you to make sure that you’re safe, that you’re aware of what’s going on,” she said. “They’re nice and friendly and we appreciate them.”

Steve Beiser, a resident on County Road 201 near Hermosa, talks with firefighters Ryan McNertney, left, and Isaac Duran on Monday while creating defensible space around Beiser’s house.

Beiser bought a travel trailer to help them carry items out of the neighborhood in the event they need to evacuate.

“Everything’s packed,” she said. “And when the trailer gets here, more stuff will get packed. We’re not going to be brave and stick it out. If they say evacuate, see ya.”

Many people have attempted to watch the fire from County Road 201 but have been blocked by the Forest Service.

“We’re not letting anyone in,” said Missy Carter of the San Juan National Forest. “The fire is coming down quicker than we would like it to.”

While crews hurried to protect homes in Hermosa, about 70 firefighters continued to protect eight homes under evacuation on the west side of Highway 550.

Hot-shot crews created a check line using the railroad track from Irongate Way, near where the fire started, south to the Hermosa Cemetery. The line is used to prevent the fire from affecting homes along the Highway 550 corridor.

Structure protection crews continued mitigation efforts around structures in evacuated areas.

“We’ll do a periodic walk-through of the houses down here to make sure nothing is going on,” said Hugh Fairfield-Smith, an engine captain. “Other than that, we’re keeping an eye on the fire, making sure everything’s looking good.”

Cody Rose, a division supervisor for the Rocky Mountain Blue Team, said structures in the area are well-protected.

“We’re doing everything we can,” he said. “So far, we haven’t lost a structure, and we don’t plan on losing any structures.”

The crew seemed prepared to spend a decent amount of time fighting the fire.

“It’ll be here for a while,” Rose said. “I don’t know specifically how much longer, but it’ll be here for a while.”